Beyond the bon-bons
By NATHALIE HARDY | July, 2014
Published in the Yamhill-Valley News-Register
It should surprise very few to learn that since I switched from working outside the home full time to stay-at-home momming full time, there’s been a little, uh, shall we say, “relationship recalibration” around here.
While we aren’t breaking any new ground with the whole “who does what around here” argument, I figured it would be worth dedicating at least one column to this futile fight so the rest of you who might be having it know you are not alone.
Honestly, my first draft was an angry journal entry. I considered not submitting the final version because I don’t want to pick on my husband. After all, I love the guy.
But I am committed to reality and honesty. And I believe an authentic column about parenting, running as long as this has without at least some mention of that classic argument, would be neither realistic nor honest.
It turns out, my husband is genuinely baffled about why I don’t get more done during the day. Probably more puzzling is the lack of bon-bon containers in the bathroom, fancy nails and spa appointments.
For us, the issue came to a head last weekend when both of us were both trying to get major projects done while our 6- and 4-year-olds entertained themselves in the backyard. But that only worked for about an hour.
I suggested he finish his, then give me some time in the evenings to do mine.
“But you have all day, every day,” he said, incredulous. I stared back at him, equally incredulous.
Do I? Because it doesn’t feel like that at all.
“You’re the boss, you can do whatever you want,” he said.
I’d prefer to report that comment was met with silence. Alas, it was not.
His is not an uncommon misunderstanding of what it’s like at home with little ones. The truth is, my days actually seem to be run more by the boys’ bowel and bladder needs, and cleaning up after said needs, than a list of tasks to be accomplished by day’s end.
Oh, I make lists. It’s just hard to factor in all the little ways things go sideways.
Water spills. It gets cleaned up. Food spills. Floor gets mopped. Someone cuts foot, leaving trail of blood and dirt on freshly mopped floor. And so it goes.
Or, how about simple things like going to the grocery store.
Do you have any idea how long it takes to get two children through Fred Meyer to buy bananas, bread, spinach and tortillas? Forty five minutes, people.
Why? Well, because they wanted to help, or didn’t want to help. Because they never have to go to the bathroom at the same time, but do both need to go at some point. Yes, even though they went at home before we left.
This is a familiar fight, even to me, because it surfaced every so often during round one of my being home with the boys. You’d think we’d have learned. And actually, to some extent, we have.
My husband is learning to keep some of his observations to himself, and conversely to make an effort to notice what I actually do get accomplished.
As for me, I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter so much if everyone doesn’t get it. I really don’t have to defend myself for being the kind of mom who would rather let the boys play peek-a-boo with squirrels on a very long walk home from school than worry if the floors are clean enough to eat off.
Who eats off the floor, anyway? Besides kids, I mean.
The first time around, I was intent on making sure people knew how hard it was to be home with little ones. I wanted it understood it really is work, no matter how good the cause. So I wound up doing a lot of what sounded like complaining instead of being grateful for the time with them.
When my now 6-year-old was a toddler, I overheard a woman sounding much like I probably did as she lamented all there was to do to care for her children. She made them sound like such a burden, and they were within earshot.
She was likely just venting to a friend. But I realized in that moment that I never wanted to make the boys feel like burdens.
This time around, I’m mindful to avoid giving them the impression they are “work.” I am trying to balance that with getting their cooperation on lessening the load around here so there’s more time to read, snuggle and play together.
Did you know that to do something fun, crafty and hands-on, like making play-dough, it takes 20 minutes to set up before and 15 to clean up after in return for 30 minutes of actual play time? Call me crazy, but I think it’s worth every minute. To the kids, it’s pure joy.
So when people ask me what I do all day, exactly, I struggle. I once came up with a detailed list of how my typical day went, but I haven’t managed to pull that off again.
Annie Dillard said, “How you spend your days is, of course, how you spend your life.”
I hope to spend my days focusing on the magic before the mess and on making the people who matter most to me feel cherished, loved and safe — even if they also happen to be the messiest people I know.
Contact Nathalie Hardy at firstname.lastname@example.org.